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October 07, 1976 - Image 8

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1976-10-07

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rPage Eigit-,

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Thursday, October 7. 1976

SMITH, WOOD COME THROUGH: . gg g

.

I

Wolverin
By BILL STIEG
Bob Wood has taken some life out of Michigan football games,
much to the delight of Michigan fans.
Jim Smith has put some excitement back into the games,
also to the delight of Michigan fans."
A kickoff return, with its running start and wedge of block-
ers leading the way, can be one of the most exciting plays in
football. Punt returners, however, frequently just wave their
arm, catch the ball and kneel down.
Things are different this year at Michigan.
Wood sends almost every one of his kickoffs into the
end zone, nullifying any chance for a runback. And Smith,
a slippery speedster, consistently threatens to break open his
punt returns.
This, of course, makes coach Bo Schembechler very hap-
py. As a rule, coaches are obsessed with field position, espe-
cially in a big game like Saturday's collision with Michigan
State.
Wood and Smith have taken a load off Schembechler's mind.
Michigan's placekicker for the last two seasons, Wood has
kicked off 28 times in four games this year. Nineteen of those
have been either through the endzone or too deep to return. In
the last three games, 18 of his 22 kicks haven't been returned.
Smith, in his second year of returning punts, has an
amazing 17.9 yard average, which is all the more remark-
able because he hasn't broken any returns for touchdowns.
In other words, all his returns are for good yardage, and his
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average hasn't been jacked up by one long breakaway. ! Smith's returns have put the Wolverines in easy striking
"I haven't done that yet," says Smith, "but I hope to be- range on several occasions. Wood's kickoffs have pinned the
fore the season is over." Last year, the 6-3, 195 wingback's long- opponents close to their goalline almost every time.
est return was 50 yards, but he never scored a TD on a return. "I worked on my kicking a lot this summer," says Wood, a
Last week against Wake Forest, Smith came close to going 5-8 senior and devout Christian. "I have more confidence this
all the way twice with returns of 39 and 41 yards. Each gave year. That's due in large part to having a lot of time this
Michigan superb field position and the Wolverines were able to summer to think about life, and the Bible, and how it can relate
score easily. to my life in football."
Michigan's punt return and kickoff coverage is much im- i Wood says he has gained confidence from his Bible
..******. ***.... .*..................-.-.e studies, specifically from Phillippians 4:13, which reads,
"I have strength for every situation through Him who em-
Smith's returns have put the Wolverines powers me."
in easy striking range on several occasions. "You can think about a lot of things," says Wood, "like what
can go wrong on a kick, but I think about what I know I cpn
Wood's kickoffs have pinned the opponents do - the positive things. Football is a mental game."
close to their goalline almost every time. Besides his booming kickoffs, Wood has hit four of four
field goals this season, one of them a Michigan record-tying 51-
......................... yc arder.
proved over last season. Wood was considered accurate but not Smith, a strong candidate for all-America honors, credits
powerful in '75, while the punt return unit was not nearly as his outstanding punt returns to his teammates.
explosive. "The biggest thing is the guys hustling downfield to get a
"We've worked on our punt returns more this season," says good block," says Smith, who is Michigan's prime pass catcher

t
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Schembechler. "We've put more emphasis on it and it shows.
"We're also rushing the punter more, which keeps the
opponent guessing-that helps the punt return. And Smith is
such a great natural athlete. That helps."
The Wolverines have been rushing the punter more fre-
quently this season and have blocked two kicks.
"We're no longer playing as conservatively," says Schem-
bechler. "There's always a 50-50 chance that we'll go after the
punter. I like that aggressiveness. We've only got one rough-
ing the kicker penalty, got some blocks and rushed some kicks."
There are no set conditions that automatically call for aj
strong rush, says Schembechler, though "field position, the
tempo of the game, and what kind of protection the punter's
been getting" are all taken into consideration.
"But who knows," he adds. "We may rush on the first
punt of the game."
Good field position helped Michigan immensely in its 31-0
victory over Wake Forest last Saturday. If a team is deep
in its own territory, it takes a long, sustained drive to score
-something few teams can accomplish against Michigan.
Poor field position also cuts down on the variety of plays that
can be called - few teams want to gamble that close to their
own goalline. Once they get some breathing space, the attack
can open up.

and a real running threat from his wingback slot.
"I've always got to beat a couple guys with my own moves,"
he says, "but after that the blocks are usually there."
Smith has a slithery, almost sneaky running style, simi-
lar to former Wolverine quarterback Dennis Franklin. But
first he has to catch the ball - which is no problem for the
sure-handed Illinois native.
"Even if you don't get a good return, you've got to first make
sure you catch it," he says. "I don't worry about running until
I'm sure I have the ball."
"As soon as the ball is kicked, the guy on the left-that's
me -- makes the call who's going to take it. If everybody is going
for the block, we have to make a decision whether to go for the
yardage or not - you don't have very much time to think, so
communication is very important.
On the other side of the coin, John Anderson's punting for
the Wolverines has been quite good, including a 48 yarder. And
the kickoff return squad is averaging about 16 yards a crack.
But, once again to the delight of Michigan fans, these aspects
of Michigan's play haven't been needed too much - the steady
offense has made punting almost unnecessary, and opponents
score so infrequently that kickoff returns are few and far be-
tween.

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Daily Photo by PAULINE LUBENS
PLACEKICKER BOB WOOD follows through on one of his 24
point-after-touchdown conversions. Wood is the top kicker in
the Big Ten, leading the conference in kick scoring with 36
points.

e

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win 20 games in one season. fastball, was asked if there was
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PADRES' PRESIDENT Buzzie He laughed and said, "No
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.®...

IIJIJE PICKS.

1) Michigan State at
MICHIGAN (pick score)
2) Purdue at Wisconsin
3) Northwestern at Indiana
4) Ohio State at Iowa
5) Illinois at Minnesota
6) Stanford at UCLA
7) Rice at Texas Christian
8) Auburn at Memphis State
9) Oklahoma at Texas
10) SMU at Baylor
11) Kentucky at Mississippi

12)
13)
14)
15)
16)
17)
18)
19)
20)

Kansas at Oklahoma St.
Texas Tech at Texas A&M
Duke at Miami, Fla.
Nebraska at Colorado
Clemson at Wake Forest
Wyoming at Brigham
Young
Tennessee at Georgia Tech
Navy at Air Force
N.Y.Mets at DAILY
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October 7, 1976
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